For several months The Knoxville Focus has been interviewing public officials, community leaders and other people we feel contribute to our county’s history, progress or have interesting lives. This week we sat and chatted with John Fugate, a Fountain City leader who is currently the vice chair of the Fountain City Business and Professional Association, vice president of Commercial Bank, and a person who sits on various boards as his way of contributing to Knoxville and Knox County.
Fugate sits on the E-911 Board and has served on the Knox County Board of Education.
What has your many positions in public life taught you and what have you learned?
I’m a public servant at heart. My father taught me that anything you do you should leave it in better shape than when you got it. I’ve learned that some people don’t get a chance and I can help improve the quality of lives.
How has your community service served your family, business or private life?
It has given me pride to be a leader in the community, in that my family, my kids and grandkids look to me. I came to Commercial Bank in 2006 and there have been lots of changes here. I’m proud I could be a part of it.
Tell us a bit about your family.
My wife (Sandra) and I have three children, two sons John and Chris, and one daughter, Rachel. We have five grandchildren and three adopted grandchildren. My wife was the state’s curriculum director for English as a Second Language at UT and now runs The Center for English at West Lonsdale Baptist Church.
My family is from Tazewell in Claiborne County. We had a big farm and both my parents had college degrees. I went to East Tennessee State University in 1968 and have a master’s degree; Sandra attended UT and LMU.
I spent six years in the Tennessee National Guard and was sent to Memphis in the days following Martin Luther King’s death.
What are your hopes for Knoxville and Knox County?
A metro government might be very beneficial; there are so many duplications of services. Knox County and Knoxville have a bright future. We’re centrally located and have some good leadership. We need to be pro-active in the future. We have some issues like traffic, infrastructure and public education. It’s a very loving community with compassion and faith-based values.
We have good state government leaders. We do need to update our school buildings and roads. I don’t see the need to raise taxes because lots of people are moving in and home values are increasing. We need to be smart on how we spend our money.
What are your main hobbies or interests?
I’m an avid golfer. I hope I’m competitive. I enjoy serving the community on lots of boards and, at my age, feel I am a meaningful member. We like to travel and I collect stamps, coins, and baseball and football cards.
What do you see as your main accomplishments in life?
I’ve been able to educate my kids and provide a good living. I’m proud I’ve taught my kids and grandkids Christian values. I hope I’ve set a good example and have lived the life that I professed.
When people meet you for the first time how do they see you?
That I’m friendly, genuine and compassionate. I try to make people feel comfortable whether they are millionaires or don’t have two sticks to rub together. My father had a great quote, “Old too soon and wise too late.”
If you had one thing in your life to do over, what would that be?
To equip myself better to do and accomplish any job I set out to do.
What is your favorite meal and place to eat?
A good steak or seafood. I like The Chop House, Litton’s and Sam and Andy’s. I like to go where I can see other people. There are a lot of good Fountain City places and we should support them.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a Christian, a kind and honest fellow helping our community to be a better place and for my family to be proud of my legacy. I’m proud of Fountain City as a community with fine people, churches and schools. There’s so much compassion here for the less fortunate and it’s a great place to live, work and raise kids.